Common Groundsel is so well known throughout Great Britain, that
it needs scarcely any description. It is very prolific, and found in
every sort of cultivated ground, being a small plant of the Daisy
tribe, but without any  outer white rays to its yellow
flower-heads. These are compact little bundles, at first of a dull
yellow colour, until presently the florets fall off and leave the
white woolly pappus of the se
ds collected together, somewhat
resembling the hoary hairs of age. They have suggested the name
of the genus senecio, from the Latin senex, an old man:--
Quod canis simili videatur flore capillis;
Cura facit canos quamvis vir non habet annos.
With venerable locks the Groundsel grows;
Hard care more quick than years white head-gear shows.
In the fifteenth century this herb went by the name of Grondeswyle,
from grund, ground, and swelgun, to swallow, and to this day it
is called in Scotland Grundy Swallow, or Ground Glutton.
Not being attractive to insects or visited by them the Groundsel is
fertilized by the wind. It flowers throughout the whole year, and is
the favourite food of many small birds, being thus given to canaries,
and to other domesticated songsters.
The weed, named at first Ascension, is called in the Eastern
counties by corruption Senshon and Simson. Its leaves are fleshy,
with a bitter saline taste, whilst the juice is slightly acrid, but
emollient. In this country farriers give it to horses for bot-worms,
and in Germany it is employed as a vermifuge for children. A weak
infusion of the whole plant with boiling water makes a simple and
easy purgative dose, but a strong infusion will act as an emetic. For
the former purpose two drachms by weight of the fresh plant should
be boiled in four fluid ounces of water, and the same decoction
serves as a useful gargle for a  sore throat from catarrh.
Chemically it contains senecin and seniocine.
In the hands of Simplers the Groundsel formerly held high rank as a
herb of power. Au old herbal prescribes against toothache to dig up
Groundsel with a tool that hath no iron in it, and touch the tooth five
times with the plant, then spit thrice after each touch, and the cure
will be complete. Hill says the fresh roots if smelled when first
taken out of the ground, are an immediate cure for many forms of
headache. To apply the bruised leaves will serve for preventing
boils, and the plant, if taken as a sallet with vinegar, is good for
sadness of the heart. Gerard says Women troubled with the mother
(womb) are much eased by baths made of the leaves, and flowers of
this, and the kindred Ragworts.
A decoction of Groundsel serves as a famous application for healing
chapped hands. In Cornwall if the herb is to be used as an emetic
they strip it upwards, if for a purgative downwards. Lay by your
learned receipts, writes Culpeper, this herb alone shall do the deed
for you in all hot diseases, first safely, second speedily.